Earlier today we heard that Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas had fired Arizona Board of Education Executive Director Christine Thompson and Assistant Director Sabrina Vazquez. Gov. Doug Ducey then said Douglas had no legal right to do this, and overturned the layoffs.
To what Douglas replied:
“Governor Ducey apparently views himself as both Governor and Superintendent of Schools. For someone who has spent so much time discussing the plain meaning of ‘or vs. and’ as a justification to deprive schools of hundreds of millions of dollars to give to his corporate cronies as tax cuts, I wish he would use the same precision in looking at the plain language of the law with regard to the powers and duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Governor Ducey has refused to take calls or meetings with me personally since his swearing in. Clearly he has established a shadow faction of charter school operators and former state Superintendents who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools. It is no surprise that his office supports retaining two liberal staff who have publicly stated they will block all efforts to repeal or change Common Core and backs the newly elected President of the Board of Education who is a charter school operator and stands to profit from the Governor’s policy of pushing through AzMerit to lower school scores so that more students can be removed to charter schools.
I swore to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the State of Arizona with my hand upon the Bible. I take that oath very seriously and will continue to do so. I also promised the voters of the state to replace Common Core and will not falter in my best efforts to keep my promise, regardless of whether the Governor honors his campaign rhetoric to do the same. If the Governor thinks I have to justify hiring or firing at will employees who can be terminated without cause and without rights of appeal, then it brings into question the dozens of agency heads and gubernatorial employees who have been removed and replaced for clearly political reasons. Does the Governor also believe he controls all other elected officials created by the state Constitution? If so, the next ballot should only have one office to vote upon."
"I wish the Governor would focus on his own duty to fill vacant positions on the Board of Education. We have encouraged him to appoint real ‘lay persons’ and to bring back African-American representation to the Board. Unfortunately, he is remiss to address his own education responsibilities. Despite publicly stating that education is the number one issue in the state. If he would spend time selecting Board members it would also reveal whether he is actually for or against Common Core. Perhaps that is the cause for his reticence."
ARS 15-251, which dictates the powers and duties of a superintendent, says:
1. Superintend the schools of this state.
2. Request the auditor general to investigate when necessary the accounts of school monies kept by any state, county or district officer.
3. Subject to supervision by the state board of education, apportion to the several counties the monies to which each county is entitled for the year. Apportionment shall be made as provided in chapter 9 of this title.
4. Direct the work of all employees of the board who shall be employees of the department of education.
5. Execute, under the direction of the state board of education, the policies which have been decided upon by the state board.
6. Direct the performance of executive, administrative or ministerial functions by the department of education or divisions or employees thereof.
President of the board, Greg Miller, also objected to the firings, saying the two employees worked for the board not Douglas. The state Constitution gives Ducey power to appoint board members, but Douglas argues the governor's say in firing employees of the board is also vague.